The more senior you are, the more exposed you are: executives are expensive, especially experienced ones, and I have heard too many stories of good people getting ousted by restructures.

Those with a good network are impervious to this. With good connections, we can soon be introduced to new opportunities. There is much truth in the adage ‘your network is your net worth’ and ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’.

However, just knowing a bunch of folks is not merely enough; it’s how you show up in your network that really counts.

Are you what Adam Grant in his book, Give and Take, calls a ‘taker’? A ‘taker’ is someone who is happy to take favours and help from others but rarely gives away anything themselves. Self interest and achievement is the key motivator here.

Are you what Grant calls a ‘matcher’? This is someone who is happy to give help, as long as they receive something in return. Fairness and equanimity is the default expectation.

Or are you what Grant calls a ‘giver’? This is someone who is always on the look out on how they might help others – be it an introduction, some advice, or a resource. Givers give without expectation of anything in return; generosity is their default.

The trouble with givers, Grant is keen to point out, is that they can often be taken advantage of. They can be so busy giving they are left with little time and energy for their own self face or their own work. This looks a lot like martyrdom. The antidote to this is to ensure we have a strong dose of ambition for self, as well for others. We are happy to ask for help, as well as give it. This is different to ‘matchers’ who give with a conditional expectation of something in return. For successful givers, giving and receiving are separate and yet equally satisfying experiences.

Take this brief self assessment:

When you go to a networking event, do you:

  1. Go in dread waiting for the ‘lazy networkers’ who just push all over you and thrust their business cards at you?
  2. Do you figure out who could be a good contact for you and then work out how to approach them and find a mutual interest?
  3. Do you attend with a curiosity about people, their interests, and ambitions?

If you answered a, it’s possible you are either expecting the networking to be full of takers or you are a taker yourself and brace yourself for a competitive experience.

If you answered b, you are likely a matcher – it’s quid pro quo, and you set out do the work  to get the favours in return for ones doled out.

If you answered c, then you are a giver. A successful giver also goes with the intention and openness of asking of someone may help them too.

I think a good variation to the ‘giver’ profile is to be a CONNECTOR, especially when it comes to building a resilient and robust network. To be a ‘connector’ we embrace the successful giving philosophy of looking to help others, as well as seeking help ourselves. In networking situations, we seek to connect people we meet with others who would be of benefit to each other. We keep in mind, ‘who do I know who could help or be of service to this individual? who might be a good contact/ mentor/ service provider to this person’?

When I go to networking functions, I go with the intention of making 3 good genuine connections, and finding something I can help them with:

  • a connection
  • book recommendation
  • an event they might like
  • an article that may be useful
  • a service provider I can recommend.

I have also started going to events keeping in mind what might help me, and go prepared with questions. This gives someone else the opportunity to be a giver. Even if it’s ask for advice on something like:

  • A good movie they’ve seen recently
  • A favourite restaurant
  • Recommended podcast
  • Introductions to stakeholders in a particular industry.

In leadership, connection is currency.

Decide to be a GIVER and a CONNECTOR. These are the key principles we are implementing at the Edge of Leadership UnConference: This is a one-day learning and connecting experience which focuses explicitly on the giving and connecting philosophy in action. And we’re giving all profits to local charities Menslink and Outward Bound Australia.

What are your tips for being a ‘giver’? A ‘connector’? How do you approach networking opportunities?